Manila cancels Canada Bell helicopter deal

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gestures as he speaks during a press conference in Davao City on Thursday. (AFP)
Updated 10 February 2018
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Manila cancels Canada Bell helicopter deal

DAVAO: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday abruptly canceled a $235 million contract to buy 16 helicopters from Canada after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government ordered a review over human rights concerns.
“I want to tell the armed forces to cut the deal. Do not proceed anymore, and somehow we will look for another supplier,” he said of the deal for 16 Bell 412EPI utility helicopters announced by the two governments this week.
Ottawa said Thursday that the deal was under review due to concerns over the human rights record of Duterte, the subject of a complaint in the International Criminal Court (ICC) over the alleged extra-judicial killings of thousands of Filipino drug suspects.
Bell Helicopter said in an announcement of the deal that the aircraft were intended “for a variety of missions such as disaster relief, search and rescue, passenger transport and utility transport.”
However, Manila said they would also be used for “anti-terrorism” operations, including to evacuate soldiers wounded fighting insurgents.
Philippine troops are battling militants in the Muslim south and communist guerrillas in other parts of the mainly Catholic Asian nation.
Duterte said Friday he respected Canada’s stand but added it was unavoidable that the Philippine air force would use the choppers “against the rebels and terrorists.”
“Do not buy anymore from Canada and the US because there is always a condition attached,” he said, adding that he was referring to defense material.
“If I cannot use the gunship, the helicopter, then I might as well surrender this government to them,” he said, referring to the rebels.
“The reason I’m buying helicopters is because I want to finish them off,” Duterte added.
Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said Thursday that an “extremely rigorous human rights review” would be undertaken before any export permit was issued over the helicopter contract, facilitated by the Canadian Commercial Corp.
“The prime minister and I have been very clear about the Duterte regime’s human rights abuses and the extra-judicial killings,” she told Parliament.
“I have the authority to deny a permit if I feel that it poses a risk to human rights, and I am prepared to do so,” Freeland added.
Trudeau said in November he had called out Duterte over “human rights, the rule of law, and specifically extra-judicial killings.”
Duterte, who has overseen a crackdown that has left nearly 4,000 drug suspects dead at the hands of the police, later described Trudeau’s comments as “a personal and official insult.”
The Philippine government says police have only shot suspects in self-defense and rejects human rights monitors’ description of the crackdown as a crime against humanity.


North Korea demolishes nuke test site with series of blasts

Updated 24 May 2018
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North Korea demolishes nuke test site with series of blasts

  • The planned closing was previously announced by leader Kim Jong Un ahead of his planned summit with US President Donald Trump
  • The North's decision to close the Punggye-ri nuclear test site has generally been seen as a welcome gesture by Kim to set a positive tone ahead of the summit.

PUNGGYE-RI, North Korea: North Korea carried out what it said is the demolition of its nuclear test site Thursday, setting off a series of explosions over several hours in the presence of foreign journalists.
The explosions at the nuclear test site deep in the mountains of the North's sparsely populated northeast were centered on three tunnels into the underground site and a number of observation towers in the surrounding area.
The planned closing was previously announced by leader Kim Jong Un ahead of his planned summit with US President Donald Trump next month.
The North's decision to close the Punggye-ri nuclear test site has generally been seen as a welcome gesture by Kim to set a positive tone ahead of the summit. Even so, it is not an irreversible move and would need to be followed by many more significant measures to meet Trump's demands for real denuclearization.
By bringing in the foreign media, mainly television networks, the North is apparently hoping to have images of the closing — including explosions to collapse tunnel entrances — broadcast around the world. The group included an Associated Press Television crew.
The North did not invite international inspectors to the ceremony, which limits its value as a serious concession.